This paper addresses the remarkable institutional and economic changes in the Brazilian seaport system in the past 25. years. Port throughput has increased substantially following the growth in foreign trade and the institutional framework had remarkable changes, but it is still required to enhance private investment infrastructure by a clearer regulation and transport integration improvement.Following the international liberalization movement, a new regulation was established (Act 8630/1993) and sea port operations were privatized. But, only, in 2001 the regulation agency, National Agency for Waterway Regulation (ANTAQ) and later, in 2007, the Special Port Secretariat were created to regulate and control the port sector and manage local port authorities. The experience is considered successful; however the complexity of the Brazilian port system and private investment continuity require clearer legal instruments. Today, different lease agreements coexist and the present legal instruments are considered controversial in their definitions in the context of public, private and mixed terminals. A new act was proposed by the Government and it is under consideration by the Brazilian Congress.The analysis comprised three aspects: 1) the historical background of the privatization process; 2) the present institutional situation, as seen by the private sector, and the public entities' role in regulating and monitoring port operations; and 3) institutional and governance framework present situation and perspectives impacting on investments in port infrastructure aiming to improve competitiveness. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.